My Disability Matters Club

Saving myself by accountability

My name is Ross Trowbridge. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and am not ashamed. I’ll start off by saying I once was. I was riddled with fear, anxiety, guilt. I lived day by day, week by week and month by month in bed 23 hours a day with severe suicidal ideation. My life was what most would consider a living hell. For over 20 years I was diagnosed and misdiagnosed repeatedly, not knowing why I felt the things I felt. Not knowing why I acted the way I did. As you know, one cannot successfully treat a condition unless one knows which condition they have. So, when I was finally correctly diagnosed with BPD I could finally connect the dots. I had answers to the questions that kept me up at night for so many years. Unfortunately, the plot thickens.

I reached out to professionals. I begged for the appropriate treatment for a condition that kills at least 1 out of 10 who are afflicted. I was always taught growing up to ask for help when help is needed. Yet I was turned away over and over again. I didn’t have adequate insurance. Or if I was accepted to a program it was meant to treat other conditions like depression, anxiety or addiction. These were underlying symptoms of the root of my problem and treating these conditions and only these conditions were simply applying a band-aid to a gushing wound. There are treatments such as DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) but the therapy is long, can many times be expensive as well as complex. I needed simplicity.

I have lived my entire life analyzing and overanalyzing each breath I took and decisions I made. It was time to develop my own recovery program—a program that has saved my life. I participate in small, recovery focused, positive tasks each day. I never took a day off from keeping myself mentally ill, so I refuse to take a day off in recovery. I won’t get into depths into each recovery task, but I will talk to you about the one thing that has literally changed my perspective on myself and mental illness—accountability.

I am a strong believer that not enough people in this world hold themselves accountable for their mistakes and do not take enough credit for their successes. Today, I do both. My mental illness was simply an influence on the decisions I made. I have come to realize that Borderline Personality Disorder has never actually caused any harm in my life. My thoughts, feelings, and emotions were never my downfall. Only my actions were. My negative thoughts led to negative feelings and emotions which led to negative actions. Today I take responsibility for those actions. I also take responsibility for better decisions. But the only way I can do that is to change my thoughts which will change my feelings and emotions—which will change—yes—my actions.  When I pin my failures and life’s woes on my disorder I give it power. I compare my mental illness to a monster who I fed daily until it became big and plump and overbearing. I now make the conscious effort to starve it. That is when I gained control over my life once again.

My life is not perfect by any means as I’m still trying to pick up the pieces from all the poor decisions “I” made that led up to my change. I will be digging myself out of a hole for years to come but it is liberating to say that “I” am paying for the consequences of “my” actions. I hold myself accountable and that, in itself, is a success story. What is truly remarkable is that I have no car and may not possess one for some time now, I have no job but am working hard at obtaining one, my relationships are torn but I hope to mend them, I have no money, but I have everything I need—and I am truly happy today. Up until recently, I’ve never in my life have been able to express happiness without tying it to a car, work, relationships or cash. I’m scratching the surface of recovery but holding myself accountable and giving myself power over my disorder has literally changed my life.

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